Thursday, August 31, 2006

Social Network Philanthropy - this is it

Here it is - social network enabled decision making for grantmaking -

Online giving not a disaster in a disaster

The San Francisco Business Times reported (August 28, 2006) that$4.5 bb in giving was recorded in 2005. Much of this was disaster related. More than 1/3 of giving for the tsunami and about half of all Katrina-related giving happened online.

Online giving was only about 2% of total giving (More than $260 bb in the USA in 2005). But it grew from $500 mm in 2000 to $4.5 bb in 2005 - not a bad rate of growth.

Another note, Sarah Duxbury, who wrote the article for the Business Times references Network for Good as the data source. Online gift transaction processors, such as NFG, GlobalGiving, Kintera and others are important new data sources for us.

Academics and philanthropy

The September 2006 issue of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly has a bevy of articles for foundation-watchers. Full article access is limited to subscribers or single-use purchases, but you can read the abstracts online. I recommend the following pieces (links are to abstracts):

After all, it is the start of the school year so I feel OK about assigning some homework. Stay tuned, this may the first blog to ever post a pop quiz.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Online, transparent values and requirements - something for foundations to try

Hivos is a Netherlands-based NGO. Its virtual office offers a nice example of one way funders can manage their application processes and share information with potential grantees that might actually make their lives easier.

Business Week discovers the Giving Portfolio

The Buffett/Gates gift has helped folks understand the basic concept behind The Giving Portfolio, which I first published in 2002 and which appears in Creating Philanthropic Capital Markets and elsewhere. The recent press comes in via PhilanthropyBeat, noting the story in BusinessWeek.

Yes, indeed, donors choose.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

As for categorizing things, Pluto probably cares...

According to Technorati, the blogosphere is aghast at the reclassification of Pluto. See, I'm not the only one who cares about "who decides" and "what gets called what."

Photo from National Geographic News.

List of new technologies being deployed for change

SmartMobs, via Wikipedia, has an interesting list of ways people are using SMS (text messaging on cell phones) to achieve political change. Prominent examples include organizing protest rallies after the Madrid train bombings and the use of "text message chain letters" by the successful opposition to a sitting Philippine President.

"Text message chain letters" - this may be the very definition of "everything old is new again."

Photo Attribution: Flickr, CreativeCommons Search, JesseWarren

Its not social network philanthropy...

... has been the most common response to the posting I did on the Voices and Choices Program.

Some sample comments:
"Its just a needs assessment."
"Nothing more than an online town meeting."
"Its not social network philanthropy"

OK. I don't disagree, although I was giving credit to the funders consortium behind the site and the project for 'networking' themselves and sharing opinions, data etc. in a way that influenced their actions. Maybe I was too generous. So, I'll ask again, does anyone know of any real social networking philanthropy sites? (FreePledge was suggested - but, frankly, I don't get it.)

Network-centric philanthropy

Michael Gilbert's has provided an analysis of a survey he conducted on using RSS to stream grantmaking data. He notes impressively high interest rates (greater than 70% of respondents, with or without grantmakers themselves in the mix). Here is the link to the paper from Gilbert on why he thinks this is a good idea.

OK, it seems like a good idea. But the universe of the interested seems rather small. Who really cares about where foundation grants go - anyone but the professional staff of nonprofits and foundations? If you take the time to aggregate, mash up the data onto maps, and any of the other dozen cool things you can/could do with online grants data - does anyone outside the inner sanctum care?

Thanks to my colleague for sending me the link to Gilbert's survey. You know who you are.

Its not real until there is an association. And PR.

The "future of futurism is bright."

This is the real title of an email I received from the World Futures Society. Here is the article from MSNBC covering the WFS conference that assured the 1000 or so people in attendance that they were, in fact, there.

What is this blog about, anyway?

So I spend my days looking for patterns. That is, in between being with my family, walking the dog, medicating the 20 year old, one-eyed cat, running a business, working with clients, and writing. So, I thought I had better check in with myself about the patterns in the last month or so of blog postings.

Here are - in the order in which I remember them without looking at the archives - the topics covered:
- tax policy
- pension law
- online giving
- social networking
- complementary currencies
- virtual life/second life
- learning
- technology and philanthropy
- technology and social change
- economic inequities
- metrics and philanthropy
- community foundations

So that's what is on my mind. Since I am supposed to be outlining a new book, I thought I had better review what it is I'm thinking about. The above list, which looks somewhat random, actually makes me realize there may be hope for that book outline yet.

As for random connections - I am eagerly awaiting publication (October 19, 2006) of Steven Johnson's latest book, The Ghost Map. Johnson excels at connecting seemingly disconnected ideas and events, and the subtitle of the book alone is enough to draw me in

(see the photo, above). Johnson's history of a cholera epidemic aims to link disease to changes in modern science (easy to understand), urban planning (a step away from obvious) and the modern world (the big connection). I'm sure he can do it - that's why I'm waiting for the book. (I'll pre-order it from my local bookseller - not use his website's link to Amazon - as soon as I can). Maybe he'll read this and send me a reviewer's copy....

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A virtual Harvard Square

...or at least a virtual class from Harvard Law School. Professors at the School will offer a class in Second Life. See the announcement for the CyberOne Course. This takes online curriculum, distance learning, and open courses to a whole new...well, life.

Complementary Currency economies not devoid of greed

Today's Wall Street Journal points out that people can be as greedy about "points" as about any other currency. Just as "ClickFraud" plagues advertising vendors and buyers, the ease with which online experts can falsely inflate their "rated" expertise by loading up on easy questions (or simply repeated questions) is now beginning to plague sites like Yahoo Answers.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Would you let these jokers manage your money?

I know this isn't a tax column, but tax policy in the U.S has a lot to do with philanthropy, so bear with me. David Cay Johnston of the New York Times is the only person I know of who can make tax reporting interesting. His piece in Sunday's paper was not only interesting, I had one of those "Jump out of the chair shouting You've gotta be kidding" moments.

Johnston's report, "I.R.S. Enlists Outside Help in Collecting Delinquent Taxes, Despite the Higher Costs," (Sunday, August 20, 2006, p 12 National Edition) notes the following:

If Congress would allow the IRS to hire its own debt collectors, the cost would be about $296 million and the return about $87 billion, or 3 cents on the dollar. (Over ten years)

Congress won't allow the IRS to hire staff, so they are outsourcing this work. It will cost us $330 million and return $1.1 billion, over the same ten years. This is 24 cents on the dollar.

And that is not all.

Three private firms have won the contracts to collect these debts. (Drum roll, please, you know what's coming). One of the three, based in Austin, TX, is run by a guy who has served jail time for bribery. The bribes were paid to win a collection contract.

And that is not all.

All of the firms will be given access the private taxpayer information on those who owe money. No worries about identity theft here, right?

Wrong. Stay tuned. It probably won't be long until the papers report the loss of a laptop/flash drive/file cabinet containing the private tax information on the more than 10,000 Americans these 3 companies will soon start calling.

And yes, I did make note that the collectors will focus on taxpayers who owe less than $25,000 each. Something tells me the folks making this decision are looking up the wrong end of the pipe if they really cared about collecting due revenue.

As if watching your Amazon ranking weren't enough...

Seth Godin has a live posting of web 2.0 sites, showing popularity, change in ranking and all things traffic related. Talk about metrics.

This should have been a comment...

...But instead it came via email.

I read this from you this morning:

> >"Philanthropic dollars are not democratic. More important, philanthropic dollars are not enough to run anything. Even when there are a lot of them - and Gates/Buffett have plenty - they are not sufficient to address the problems of a democratic society. We must recognize the downsides and shortfalls of philanthropic dollars. And it is the public sector, and the choices it makes, that allow philanthropic dollars to accumulate and direct how they function. This regulatory relationship has lots of room for improvement. But its more important that we don't ever confuse the private funds for - or expect them to replace - public responsibilities."

Exactly! But what suggestions do you make for regulatory improvements?"

So, some initial thoughts:
1) We currently regulate philanthropy post hoc - that is, we monitor what happens after it happens (if at all). Regulations that give preference to community input on the front-end would be a good start. For example, tax breaks currently favor gifts to community foundations over those to private foundations.

2) Second, the regulatory system for organized philanthropy (foundations) relies heavily on penalties (see the post hoc note above). The problem with this is that no one really suffers from penalties on foundations. No CEO loses his/her job, staff aren’t docked salary, and the donor has already given over the funds to the organization so the money isn’t coming out of her pocket. The only ones who might suffer are potential grantees. Once the penalty fee is assessed the likely response is to decrease the grants budget (not cut salaries or jobs at the Foundation). So the community suffers, but these organizations have no power vis-à-vis the foundation to begin with so their pain is not a very effective deterrent.

3) Which leads me to the next consideration. If penalties assessed don’t actually penalize anyone in a decision-making role, perhaps we need a new approach. Incentives work for donors when they are in the initial stages of setting of a foundation – hence the community foundation preference noted above.

Simply encouraging more philanthropic gifts may not be the goal (remember we were talking about the relationships between philanthropic and public resources). Perhaps there are incentives to be considered that would actually defer some of the philanthropic dollars BACK into the public system, but leave the potential donor with more say than he/she has now. We can direct some of our tax dollars (electoral funds at the federal level and some municipalities/states allow funds to be checked for the arts).

More thoughts to come. What do YOU think?

Monday, August 21, 2006

All you gotta do is ask...

or blog, as the case may be. I asked when social networking philanthropy would arrive. Here it is, Voices and Choices in Ohio - a project of a funders collaborative, an organization specializing in collaboration and a university partnership. Thanks to a friend for sending this my way

Social Network Philanthropy

Social network investing is taking off. See this article from TechCrunch that highlights several social network stock picking sites.

So, when will social network philanthropy come to a monitor near you?

Social Network Philanthropy

Social network investing is taking off. See this article from TechCrunch that highlights several social network stock picking sites, including SocialPicks.

So, when will social network philanthropy come to a monitor near you?

Social Network Philanthropy

Social network investing is taking off. See this article from TechCrunch that highlights several social network stock picking sites.

So, when will social network philanthropy come to a monitor near you?

Add this to the list

I've been tracking complementary currencies, alternative ways of mobilizing folks, and new developments in philanthropy. Add social-networking enabled microloans to the list, courtesy of Kiva.

Complementary currencies and books

Once again, David Bollier has pointed me to something cool. Awhile back I wrote about complementary currencies - here's on called BookMooch. I've been a member of PaperBackSwap for more than a year - BookMooch is similar in purpose - to help those of us who have more books than money trade what we've read for that which we covet (my words, not BookMooch's or PaperBackSwap's).

Here are Bollier's observations on the "rules" of BookMooch:

"As a student of the commons, I am fascinated by the some of the rules that BookMooch uses to keep the book exchange fair and functional. For example, you have to send out at least one book for every five you receive, so that you can?t just take from the commons without also giving. Also, if you don't fulfill requests promptly or don?t package them properly, you may get a bad feedback store, which will allow people to refuse your mooch requests. To prevent fraud, participants are allowed only so many ?lost in the mail? episodes."

These rules, like the rules that govern Wikipedia, are key to understanding the commons or any open, collaborative governance structure. I also learned a new name for these governance structures - learn more about panarchy.

More on money

I'm completely intrigued by the idea of complementary currencies. The most familiar of these are things like membership reward points, frequent flier miles, or time banks. Reimagining Money has a wonderful resource list of information about complementary or innovative currencies. Here's a database and map of complementary currency initiatives.

In addition to the logo similarity between Complementary Currency (two "c's") and the logo for Creative Commons (two "c's") there is an exciting opportunity to bring these movements together and perhaps create an economy designed to support and sustain the common good.

A conference I'd like to recommend

Most philanthropic conferences as you to first prove that you are qualified to attend (e.g. you work at or are on the board of a foundation). Here's a different approach - the Investor's Circle conference, Patient Capital for a Sustainable Future, sent me an invitation and explicitly asked that I "Spread the word. Share. Post. Forward. Print."

This seems to make sense to me and to focus the conference on the questions I think are most important for foundations, namely: "What are we trying to achieve? What resources can we apply to it? Who else should we involve?"

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Philanthropy needs an innovation jam

IBM has opened up its annual Innovation Jam to the public. It says it will put millions of dollars behind the best ideas generated. Philanthropy should a) either try this or b) grab some socially productive ideas from the IBM Jam.

Investors and predicting the future

Byron Wien of Pequot Capital (formerly chief strategist at Morgan Stanley) is reknown on Wall Street for his annual list of "ten surprises" which he has released every year in January since the mid-1980s. Here's his 2005 list. Here's an article he wrote on philanthropy back in 1997 for the TIFF Education Foundation. I always like to go back in time and this essay gives us a "before the boom" perspective on some now-common ideas in philanthropy, such as venture philanthropy or donor as investor.

I particularly liked Wien's final paragraph, which I've pasted below:
"Some of us on Wall Street are perhaps afraid to give away too much of what we have earned. A bear market may be coming, and we donÂ?t want to go back to where we started. To some extent, giving away money we wonÂ?t need in our lifetime forces us to think about our own mortality, and that is not something we want to focus on. Perhaps we should be mindful of the advice of one of John D. Rockefeller's advisors, given in 1905: "You must give it away. It is rolling up like an avalanche that will crush you and your children and your children's children." George Soros sees it another way. Quoting Francis Bacon, he says,"Money is like muck, not good except it be spread.""

Friday, August 18, 2006

"How much do I hear for some metrics on giving?"

"Ninety-nine percent of the $14.6 billion raised by nonprofits in auction in 2005 was raised offline." (Forbes, August 14, 2006, P. 105)

I love that sentence. 99%. $14.6 Billion. Offline. That's data for you.

Of course, Forbes (the Magazine - old company) got the data from Cmarket and (web-based technology firms - new companies).

The biggest online auctioneer - Ebay - has a Giving Works program that also supports online auctions for nonprofits.

Activism for the next boom

I found at Smartmobs, Howard Rheingold's blog on collective activity. Since my last post is about the old fogies among us (myself included) mobileactive is for the rest of you - using cell phones to organize people to organize change.

Eons and eons and eons

We all know that America is getting older. Every day - every 24 hours - 10,000 people turn 60 and another 7,918 turn 50. So, naturally, as baby boomers have done all their lives, this age group is attracting businesses, products, and marketing. Here's one: Eons. In a Time Magazine story about Eons Daniel Kadlec focused in on the website's longevity calculator, using it to see what dietary changes he might make to boost his chances of living to be 96.

Eons has hit on one thing for sure - we don't care about trends, we care about ourselves. Most of us ignore the FDA requirements, laugh at national exercise recommendations, and are convinced that the obesity epidemic is happening to someone else. But we care about ourselves - and might even take action if we see how it directly serves our own interests. (no guarantees, of course)

Maybe we need a "community longevity calculator". A nifty online tool to tell us how certain actions would contribute to healthy and sustainable communities. Of course, in the "Eons-esque" way, such as tool would have to show us how we would individually benefit from decreasing our energy consumption, embracing diversity, reducing our waste, practicing religious tolerance, cleaning up graffiti and litter, caring for the elderly, respecting our neighbors, creating art or gardening, or the myriad other things that make communities thrive.

The "Do it because its good for the earth, the community, the whatever" message doesn't get heard by boomers. If Eons is an example, the message they (we) hear is "This serves my purpose, any tangential benefit to the rest of you is just icing on the cake." I know this isn't the cheeriest point of view - but face it, we need to do something because we're going to be facing these behaviors for, well, eons.

Philanthropy and recessions

Foundations and the philanthropy industry are spending a lot of time looking for metrics. Investors and the financial services industry have tons of metrics. The news industry (in all its media forms - papers, TV, radio, magazines, blogs) is full of data and analysis on those financial services metrics.

We may need more metrics. But what we really need to do is use the ones we have. Charles Schwab & Co chief investment strategist is convinced (and convincing about) the risk of a near-term recession is greater than her colleagues are saying. She might be right. She might be wrong. Either way, near-term recession is a big concern for the investment industry and has been for the last two quarters. Is anyone in philanthropy, other than the CFOs and investment managers, paying attention? Are program officers? Their nonprofit executive partners? Strategic planners?

We can have all the metrics you can dream of. But they only matter if you use them.

A bit of perspective

Foundations make up about 10% of all philanthropic giving in the US. Perspective is important - for a graphic illustration of this, check out these photos sent by a friend of mine.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The truth in satire

C/NET and The Onion have come up with this satire about the U.S. Government's response to the growth of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

According to the piece, "The Bush administration unveiled a new $64 billion spending package Monday for a joint CIA–Pentagon program aimed at neutralizing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's global humanitarian network."

That's what makes satire work - it just could be true.

Places not people

Community foundations are (at least in the US) partially defined by their commitment to a community defined by geography. Some of them are defined exclusively this way, such as the Ocean Foundation, The Sierra Fund, the Colorado Conservation Trust, and the Alaska Conservation Foundation. These are not just placed-based community foundations, they are community foundations for places - water, mountains, and the open space of Colorado and Alaska, respectively.

Another thought on checking our basic assumptions

And here is another NYT story, this one on starting a concert at a time other than 8 pm (shocking!).

Following up on the previous post, I'm just nudging myself and others to really look at the assumptions or systems we build our work/lives around that may not 1) apply any longer, 2) serve any useful purposes or 3) help us get where we want to go. How many of these things can we change? What does the whole look like if you reorganize the pieces?

The importance of re-organizing

In this story in today's New York Times we learn that even the reference librarians don't know how to use the classification system in the main reading room. Using a categorization system developed by the Library's director from 1896-1913, today's librarians have developed all sorts of workarounds, including maps, to help them find something among the room's 25,000 resources. The general public is on their own - although frequent users claim to have memorized where things are (not much use for a first timer).

The library staff has decided to do something about it and they've started a major effort to reclassify the books and materials so anyone - librarian or member of the public - can find what they need. Quite a concept for a library.

Questions raised by the story (for me): how many systems do we stick with, because that's the way its always been? How many workarounds have we grown so accustomed to we don't even "see" them anymore? And what would it take to make the systems work, rather than workaround the systems?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pension reform

The second post I ever wrote for this blog, on July 9, 2002, was about foundations and pending regulatory reform. And now it is finally here. As we go forward in the short term we can stop wondering about "pending changes" and start looking for the implications of "reforms".

President Bush is expected to sign H.R. 4 into law either Thursday or Friday of this week. Its implications for philanthropy include:

- We, as an industry, may finally come to know how many Donor Advised Funds there are and what their collective asset value is, because this will need to be reported on Form 990s
- We, as individuals over the age of 70 and 1/2, will be able to donate retirement assets worth up to $100K to qualifying charities and deduct the gift from income
- Foundations that owe penalty excise taxes will owe twice as much as before
- Donors to and vendors of donor advised funds have new set of rules to play by regarding eligible and excluded grants. This is also true for Type III Supporting organizations. There are also new rules about investments, benefits, and reporting of these funds and organizations.

The bill is mostly about pension plans, and so is intended to effect our collective financial lives in terms of our retirement options, our savings, and what we can expect from employers. In other words, the actual implications for giving and philanthropy may be far more interesting than those listed above.

***My attorneys remind me to remind you, dear reader, that I am not one. Therefore, do not misconstrue the above information as legal advice.

A little bit public, a little bit private, and not all good.

Thanks to a public health doctor friend who forwarded to me this opinion piece in The Toronto Star. Raising issues of control, public subsidies for tax-exempt dollars, and the lack of public input, Anne-Emmanuelle Birn offers an opinion on the Buffett-Gates Gift. According to the listserv from which this came, this opinion piece was rejected by over 30 US papers before being accepted by the Star.

Rick Cohen of NCRP has raised many of these same issues. The one I find most disturbing - not because its worse than the others or newer, only because this incident is so flagrantly documented - is the effect of these gifts in letting the public sector off the hook. Both Cohen and Birn raise the issue and Cohen notes that the Bush Administration's 2007 budget directly "credits" the availability of philanthropic resources as a reason to cut the federal budget for school programs.

I know the current administration loves the private sector and hates the public one. What amazes me is their belief that private dollars must actually be worth more than public ones - is there some internal exchange rate I don't know about that makes a philanthropic dollar worth 4, 5, or 10 public ones? Even if we could ignore all the issues raised by Birn, Cohen and others (and we can't and shouldn't), there are simply not enough philanthropic dollars to let the public sector off the hook.

Sure $60 billion is a helluva philanthropic pile. But the $3 billion that will become available in Gates' grant funds is less than 25% of the Bush Administration's budget line item for the Title I Education programs, is less than the Administration requested for the HHS budget for pandemic flu preparation, and is a pittance compared to almost any line item in the budgets of Homeland Security, Defense, or Energy.

Philanthropic dollars are not democratic. More important, philanthropic dollars are not enough to run anything. Even when there are a lot of them - and Gates/Buffett have plenty - they are not sufficient to address the problems of a democratic society. We must recognize the downsides and shortfalls of philanthropic dollars. And it is the public sector, and the choices it makes, that allow philanthropic dollars to accumulate and direct how they function. This regulatory relationship has lots of room for improvement. But its more important that we don't ever confuse the private funds for - or expect them to replace - public responsibilities.

Community Foundations, tech and marketing

Community foundations all over the world are trying to connect with their communities. They are trying to structure themselves to serve customers (communities and donors) who have an abundance of choices and options of places to go to get everything a community foundation offers. So why should they come to the community foundation?

Articulating the value of a community foundation can be a big challenge and - at certain points in time - can require restructuring (new operations), re-assessing (what matters), or re-aligning (new customers) the organization. It can require new staff, new mission statements, new partners - in some cases community foundations are undertaking complete overhauls.

But the new environment for community foundations doesn't always require such a complete change. Sometimes all the pieces are already in place and the challenge is making them all fit together.

The Columbus Foundation not only makes it all fit together - they've fit it all on one page. Their website offers IN ONE PLACE, on the very first page - information on the community, opportunities to give, access to scholarships, access to funds and accounts, information on community foundations and at least a dozen other resources. And it speaks to the reader - asking the person who has come to the site "what do they want to accomplish?"

This is a great example of pulling it all together - its clean, functional, useful, and focused. My hat is off to the folks in Columbus.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Community media and philanthropy

Local newspapers are dying. Local philanthropy is booming. At least these are the myths we live by. Let us imagine they are true.

Both require local knowledge. Connections. Relationships. Information. Both need nurturing and attention. Now add in the facts that there is also boom in blogging, the rise of consumer/producers (or, as you knew they would be called, "prosumers"), and great interest in user-generated content (see this story on Current TV).

Bring it all together and it practically begs the question, "Why don't community foundations start to act like community media? - They could share information, host the technology tools (wikis, blogs, video blogs) that community reporters would use, it would open up information sharing, the foundations would learn more about what really matters in the community, the community could "speak" directly to the foundation, the local newspaper could provide editing expertise, ad sales, and reporting & analysis.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A liquid boom for the community?

Today's papers are filled with pictures of airport bins overflowing with confiscated shampoo, bottled water, lipstick, toothpaste. etc. There also were lots of stories about empty Duty Free Shops since most of what they sell is liquid, and thus wasn't allowed on the planes.

Marketplace - a news program aired on public radio station, estimated the value of this discarded stuff at $112 million dollars. My question - did it all end up in trash bins or were there any efforts to gather up all that stuff and re-use that which could be re-used (unopened bottles of stuff are useful for homeless shelters, for example)? Phoenix airport gave some of the stuff to its City Human Services Department - anywhere else?

More thoughts on the future

Everyone always wishes they could predict the future. Some folks are better than others at identifying elements of the future that are sure to change. Two such folks, Seth Godin and Eamonn Kelly have lists available. Here's Godin's Manifesto "Polkas, Pyros and Point Ds" from ChangeThis).

Assume that:
Hard drive space is free
WiFi-like connections are everywhere
Connection speeds are ten to one hundred times faster
Everyone has a digital camera
Everyone carries a device that is sort of like a laptop, but cheap and tiny
The number of new products introduced every day is five times greater than it is now
Wal-MartÂ?s sales are three times as big
Any manufactured product thatÂ?s more than five years old in design sells at
commodity pricing
The retirement age is five years higher than it is now
Your current profession is either obsolete or totally different
What then?

Eamonn Kelly's latest book, Powerful Times, helps us think about the future by thinking about "seven dynamic tensions." They are:

Clarity and Craziness
Secular and Sacred
Power and Vulnerability
Technology Acceleration and Pushback
Intangible and Physical Economies
Prosperity and Decline
People and Planet

Of course, you have to read the whole book to understand these tensions, but the list provides a sense of categories. So.Whenen we think about philanthropy and the future, can we liscertaintieses the way Godin does or identify tensions as does Kelly?

Here's a start on a list of certainties, ala Godin:

There will be significantly more philanthropic resources in the NW hemisphere than there are now
Most philanthropic resources will be held in small pots by many people
Data on giving will bubiquitousus
Giving will depend on passion
Transactions will be easy and fast
Change will be hard and slow
Individuals will have less privacy
Intellectual property will be managed differently
Appropriative technology and behaviors will flourish

And a start on a list of tensions, ala Kelly:

Privacy and transparency
Indigenous and external
Connected and isolated
Elderly and youthful

To paraphrase Godin, Now What?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

This is for you, Paul

I got a request a while back for my list of philanthropy blogs. (Sorry for not responding sooner). In addition to the list on the right hand column of this blog (scroll down a bit), here's a list from the Wilson Center at Pace University. Charity Blog Network also has a list.

Marnie Webb, web 2.0, philanthropy

Some practical advice, and easy explanations, of web 2.0 stuff and how to use them for good. From Marnie Webb of CompuMentor.

Enviro Good News

Here's a role for foundations - spreading the good news about the environment as a means of changing the current debate which seems stuck in the mode of "going to hell in a handbasket, why doing anything."

Gregg Easterbrook's Comment in this month's Atlantic proposes an alternative, "Here’s a different way of thinking about the greenhouse effect: that action to prevent runaway global warming may prove cheap, practical, effective, and totally consistent with economic growth." In "Some Convenient Truths," Easterbrook argues that global warming, which is essentially an air pollution problem, might be subject to the same kind of success that we've had in fighting smog, cutting CFCs and stopping acid rain. But we need to change the debate from the Democrats' doom and gloom and Republican's refusal to admit that regulations work.

Muni Bond Philanthropy

The Tiger Woods Learning Center Foundation is issuing $10.78 million in municipal bonds through the California Statewide Communities Development Authority. This fundraising tool isn't available to every nonprofit but its popular for the bigger guys and not one that philanthropists think about too often.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


David Bollier has taught me many things, the latest being this term, lingo-piracy. It has to do with the trademarking of common words used for uncommon purposes. In the story Bollier writes at On the Commons he notes the international community's use of Brazilian names for certain fruits. These words are used to name something else, trademarked, and then the trademarks enforced. When locals try to sell their produce (using its generic name) on the international market they get busted for trademark infringement.

Can you imagine if anyone tried this in the land of philanthro-jargon? If Tony Proscio were a greedier capitalist he would have spent his time suing colleagues for their use/misuse of the terms "leveraged," "incentivize," and "operationalize" rather than simply writing books and creating Jargon Finder

Regional community philanthropy

The San Francisco Bay Area has long been one of the nation's richest in terms of community foundations - almost every coastal county from Mendocino to Monterey and inland to Solano has its own foundation. The region has thousands of nonprofits, thousands of donors, hundreds of staff, and billions of dollars in community foundation assets.

Now that two of the bigger players have merged, (Community Foundation Silicon Valley and Peninsula Community Foundation are now known as the Silicon Valley Community Foundation) might we see a new focus on regional issues such as transportation, pollution, economic development or housing? Might we even see an expansion of the merged entity - snowballing north through San Francisco and into Marin or eastward into Alameda and Contra Costa counties?

Which metrics matter?

Social scientists, nonprofits, philanthropists and parents of school-age children love to argue about which metrics matter. For a real-time "conversation" about this, on a metric that seems inherently quantifiable at first (the number of blogs) check out this new State of the Blogosphere Report (and the comments conversation that follows it) on Technorati.

If dead grandmothers create blogs (as well as vote in Chicago), how do we know what we really can count?

Monday, August 07, 2006

The next philanthropic resource - people and networks

Bill Gates is getting a new job. That has thousands (or at least two that I know of) ex-Microsofties suddenly feeling competitive again. When John Wood, the Founder of Room to Read was interviewed by Deborah Solomon for The New York Times I noted the following exchange:

[Deborah Solomon]: "Do you think you are following in Bill Gates's philanthropic footsteps?"
[John Wood]: "In a way, I've got a nine-year head start on him at leaving Microsoft to devote myself to this full time. Gates is not going full time until 2008."

This was remarkably similar to what Denise Shephard, another Microsoftie and one of the founders of SVP Bay Area, had said to me when Gates first made his announcement. As she put it, "I've got to get busy. I've had an 8 year head start on him but now I only have 2 more years before he gets here." Shephard also wondered aloud about several of her former colleagues who she was sure would say the very same thing.

Back in the 90?s when a reporter asked Gates "What was the most important thing you did at Microsoft this year?" he would reply, "I hired a lot of really smart people."

A lot of those really smart people have turned their attention to philanthropy, as have similar "tribes" from places like Google, eBay, AOL, and elsewhere. The philanthropic dollars matter - but so do the people and their networks that earned those dollars and are now giving them away. The big impact of this generational shift to philanthropy - short term and long - may not be just the raw dollars but the networks and the people.

Pension reform and product innovation

The US Senate passed a major pension reform bill late last week. Lots of groups worked hard on this effort, and, as Diana Aviv, President of Independent Sector noted in her email about it:

"...the bill contains giving incentives that should attract needed resources to our sector. Among its provisions is an IRA rollover that marks the beginning of a major new initiative to encourage charitable donations."

So, who will create the new financial product that marries IRA rollovers, the end of employer pension contributions, and charitable donations? After all, it was similar legislation that led Charles Schwab to invent the discount brokerage and Ted Benna to invent the 401(K) Plan . Someone invented "socially responsible investing" and a Massachussetts company called SocialK has developed a 401(K) with a socially-responsible twist.

So, what's next? Employer defined charitable retirement deductions? Employer/employer retirement donor advised funds? And who is going to invent it? Perhaps the major vendors of donor advised funds (egads - you mean commercial gift funds and community foundations? Yes, that is who I mean) might invent it together....

The Little Guide to Conference land

OK, maybe I'll never outgrow my school year calendar metabolism (27 years of formal schooling could do that to a person) but I've got September on my mind. O,f course it might have been caused by yesterday's newspaper - which was crammed with five pounds of back-to-school ads.

In my life, September means conference season. Steve Jobs and the WWDC notwithstanding, the rest of the world has started to act on the well-known fact that the best part of conferences is what happens in the hallways. This summer saw several unconferences including Barcamp. Barcamp defines itself as an "ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from attendees." Gee, sounds like the hallways at most conferences I go to.

There are also formally structured conferences that seem to focus more on getting something learned and shared than hosting enormous numbers of people. Some of these are formal conferences with attached unconferences. By using webcasting and even just good-old-blogs or web archives, smaller conversations like this one on citizen media or this example of archived talks from the big TED conference seem to allow for real conversations to happen. Then the world can listen in.

So, as we head into heavy conference season, how might we - the frequent speakers, the regular attendees, the exhibitors, the hallways shmoozers, and "...Woo hoo, you over there, conference organizers! Hallooo, I'm talking to you..." actually make the time we spend in hotel ballrooms "intense events with discussions, demos, and interaction."

How do you know if you're unconferencing? Here are two ways to check. First, a little quiz:
Is there a stage?
Is there a speaker or a panel?
is there an audience?
Is the audience sitting in rows?

If you answer "yes" to any or all of the above questions, you are not at an unconference. You are at a conference.

Second, perhaps there is also an unconference happening? Here's how to check:

Is the speaker blogging while speaking?
Is the audience blogging while listening?
Is anyone standing up and holding their laptop in the air at random moments?*
Do you understand the last three sentences?

If the answer to any or all of the above four questions is "no" then, rest assured, there is no unconference happening. You are at a plain old conference. Are you learning anything?

*Macbooks have built-in cameras. When people wave them around they are taking pictures of the room to load to the web. Cell phone cameras are so yesterday.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Who Decides?

My previous post, which mentioned my interest in autism, led to a wonderful chat with a colleague. Justin reminded me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - a fabulous story told from the perspective of a boy with autism. I was then reminded of Jonathan Lethem's brilliant novel, Motherless Brooklyn, about 3 inept crooks, one of whom has echolalia.

So why am I interested in this? Because it falls right into the sweet spot of what always interests me - who decides? who decides what is normal? If the founder of BitTorrent, Bram Cohen, didn't have Asperbeger's Syndrome, would he have worked for two years to create this tool? What about the relationship between what we call mental illness and artistic creation? Or scientific discovery (maybe this is why the whole Archimedes thing has my attention also - ancient and present day scientists puzzling through problems). Who gets to decide that something is a disability rather than an incredible ability? Read anything by Oliver Sacks and you should find yourself wondering, as I do, who decides?

These questions, in this case focused on mental ability, are actually the same ones I ask everyday in the context of philanthropy - who decides what is public? What is private? How do they fit together? For the benefit of whom? Who decides?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Gates gets into media, even if community foundations don't

I wrote recently about the opportunities for community foundations and community newspapers to work together. I haven't heard much from community foundations on this, but the Gates Foundation just bought in as an investor to help a consortium buy four papers from the McClatchy newspaper chain.

I didn't intend this advice for large family foundations (though I'm not necessarily opposed to it) but it still makes sense to me that community media and community foundations would find ways to partner and/or invest in each other.

Summer Reading List

Its August 4th - have you read anything wonderful yet this summer? I've filled my head with some great fiction (The History of Love, There Will Never Be Another You, Daniel Isn't Talking, Hummingbird's Daughter, The Natural, The Fixer, The Nimrod Flip Out, Intuition, Now is the Time to Open Your Heart, Roscoe) some serious nonfiction (The End of Poverty, Omnivore's Dilemma, Small Things Considered) and a whole lot of fiction and nonfiction about autism (a new fascination of mine).

I've not wasted enough time watching television, although I did finally see the finale of The West Wing including CJ's great moment as philanthropic advisor. And I haven't seen a movie except Wordplay (Even though I spend every morning with Will Shortz' work and Neil Conan's voice I'd prefer to keep them in their rightful media places, paper and radio respectively). I haven't seen An Inconvenient Truth though I have been to to learn how bad global warming is, have been riding my bike to work and walking everywhere else, and have driven my partner to distraction trying to convince her that we can fit us, kids and the dog into a hybrid civic.

I've also turned the incredible scientific story about Archimedes, the goatskin paper, and the particle accelerator into a kids tale and have repeated it to my son and his friends no less than 15 times at their requests. We'll be watching the webcast this afternoon - how about you?

What have you read? What have you learned? What are you going to do with it?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Barter - loan - give

If you add Freecycle (online exchange of anything) to Prosper (individual to individual lending) or Zopa (same) and DonorsChoose (donor directed online giving) does it add up to anything new?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Reimagine Money

The Rudolf Steiner Foundation and friends have launched the Reimagine Money project. Check it out here. Anything that reimagines philanthropy is OK by me. I like the resources on Complementary Currencies - an interesting idea to keep in mind when thinking about philanthropic systems

Emmett by the Bay

Pasted in below is the press release on the appointment of Emmett Carson to be CEO of the newly merged Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

You can read the vision for the new organization here and download the Memorandum of Understanding between the foundations formerly known as Peninsula and CFSV here


Michelle McGurk, (408) 278-2208,
Laura Bradley Davis, (650) 581-4368,
Burton Glass, (415) 901-0111,


Emmett Carson Named CEO and President Following Merger of
Peninsula Community Foundation and Community Foundation Silicon Valley

PALO ALTO, CA – One of the nation’s leading nonprofit executives will lead the new Silicon Valley Community Foundation, created in the wake of the planned landmark merger of two of the Bay Area’s largest foundations, Peninsula Community Foundation and Community Foundation Silicon Valley.

Emmett Carson (BIO - PDF), currently CEO and President of The Minneapolis Foundation and a nationally recognized leader in the field of philanthropy, was selected by the new foundation’s board of directors after a nationwide search and announced in a news conference today.

“I want to express my deep appreciation to the board for their confidence in me and for allowing me to play a leadership role in this historic undertaking,” Carson said. “The decision to merge two well-run, successful, community foundations – Peninsula Community Foundation and Community Foundation Silicon Valley – with the hope of forming a truly outstanding organization is both innovative and unique.”

“Emmett is uniquely qualified to lead the new Silicon Valley Community Foundation because, more than any other candidate, he brings expertise in every facet of the job,” said Patricia Bresee, chair of Peninsula Community Foundation and vice chair of the board of the new foundation. “He combines the vision for an even better community foundation with the management skills to help create it.”

“I’ve known Emmett for more than a decade and am delighted that he will be leading the new community foundation,” said Peter Hero, the President of Community Foundation Silicon Valley who will continue as a senior adviser for the new foundation. “Emmett is a true leader in the philanthropic community. His outside perspective is exactly what’s needed to build on the existing traditions of innovation. He can bring the two foundations together without bias, giving him free reign to capitalize on the great opportunities ahead.”

Greg Avis, chair of Community Foundation Silicon Valley and the new foundation’s board chair, said, “Emmett’s track record in Minneapolis indicates he is the perfect person to build the new community foundation. He knows how to direct a complex organization and lead initiatives, and has run a community foundation that is similar in size and structure to both Peninsula Community Foundation and Community Foundation Silicon Valley.”

The hiring of Carson as the CEO and President followed a vote last month by the directors of the two community foundations to move forward in uniting their organizations to better serve both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and create positive social impact on a larger scale.

The unanimous approval in separate July 12 meetings of the boards of directors for Community Foundation Silicon Valley and Peninsula Community Foundation represents the next step in a unification process that started in January, but has been discussed frequently since 1991.

Established in 1954, Community Foundation Silicon Valley manages more than 650 charitable funds with total assets of $919 million. Peninsula Community Foundation was established in 1964 and manages assets of $612 million, including more than 750 charitable funds and a $125 million endowment. The newly integrated foundation would be among the largest community foundations in the nation, with more than $1.5 billion in assets under management and 1,400 philanthropic funds.

In a region known for innovation in business and technology as well as philanthropy, the new foundation will support and stimulate Silicon Valley’s charitable giving to causes locally, nationally and around the globe. The integration marks the first merger of equals involving two of the country’s leading community foundations and sets new precedent in the philanthropic sector.

Carson has built a high profile of innovation and success in the world of philanthropy and community foundations. He has repeatedly been named by NonProfit Times in its annual list as one of the Top 50 most influential nonprofit leaders in the nation, and is the immediate past president of the national Council of Foundations. Since Carson’s arrival in Minneapolis in 1994, that foundation’s assets have more than tripled, increasing from $186 million to well over $600 million dollars. Previously, Carson was the first manager of the Ford Foundation's worldwide grantmaking program on philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. He also has worked for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the Congressional Research Service.

Carson, 46, received his Ph.D. and M.P.A. degrees in public and international affairs from Princeton University and his Bachelor's degree in economics from Morehouse College. He is married, with a teenage daughter.

Carson will be paid an annual base salary of $450,000, plus standard relocation, benefits, retirement and housing assistance. His compensation is commensurate with that of executives of similarly-sized foundations, according to data provided by a compensation consultant hired by the two foundations.

He starts work November 1, but plans to visit the Peninsula and South Bay region several times before then to help with the transition.

Carson’s hiring represents the most important step to date in the merger of the two foundations, Avis said. “The search to find Emmett was quite thorough, and after considering more than a 100 candidates, we found the ideal leader for the job,” he added.

To help its new CEO and President succeed, Bresee added, both board members and staff of the new Silicon Valley Community Foundation will listen carefully to the input and guidance of the people and organizations affected by the merger of the two foundations.

“Implicit in our deliberations and decision to create a single, united community foundation is a commitment to make sure we keep the ‘community’ in the new foundation — in practice, not just in name,” said Bresee.

Pending legal review and an IRS ruling on tax exemption, Silicon Valley Community Foundation will replace Peninsula Community Foundation and Community Foundation Silicon Valley by the end of the year.

For more information, including the Vision for the New Community Foundation (which includes a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding approved on July 12 by the foundation boards), please visit: or Visitors to either site may also take an online survey to help shape the new community foundation. For information about The Minneapolis Foundation, contact Chris Langer at (612) 672-3832 or, or visit:

And another opinion/fundraising/community site

Squidoo - yet another silly-new-name website company/tool hoping to become a verb (as in "to google") - is an additional example of how business, philanthropy, community, individual interests, and the internet can all be squished together.

A new place for conversation

Here at (advertsied as MySpace for grownups)* is a conversation on philanthropy. Might we actually foster a discussion that crosses political opinions, old versus new philanthropy, venture versus traditional, social entrepreneurship versus charity? Or will all the new online tools and discussions (blogs, podcasts, wikis, social networking sites) break down along the same old useless lines that separate us in our "first life."**

*Which forces us to ask, do "grownups" need a myspace?

** SecondLife, an incredibly popular online universe, uses the term "first life" to refer to the place where living, breathing humans live, work, and play. Earth, in other words.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

who is watching whom?

We hear a lot of talk about accountability in philanthropy. Those "in the industry" or "inside the beltway" are lagging behind those who just watch - for liberal groups watching conservative philanthropists check out Media Transparency and for conservatives watching liberals check out Capital Research Center.

Although in an age when the Emily's Leaving Billboard turns out to be a viral marketing campaign the question really becomes are the watchers who they say they are?